How to Write a Song

Guitarist writing a song

Rehearsal Space--Twisty Road Cafe

Rehearsal Space–Twisty Road Cafe




They all followed Riley to the rehearsal space; and as they were walking down the hall towards it, they could see an overflow crowd spilling out into the hallway. As they jostled their way into the room, they noticed that everyone had All-Access backstage badges; and they started to recognize some of the people.

“Hey, these are all the music reviewers and radio station people that Emily knows!” said Riley.

“How’d   they get here?” Vincent asked.

“Time travel, silly cat, haven’t you been reading the book?”

Mr.Snugglewhumps looked up and said, “Hey, I’m the only cat around here!”

Gradually, everyone became aware of Rip ‘N Time’s presence and a collective and spontaneous cheer erupted. A joyful, chaotic reunion-vibe ensued– high fives, hugs, fist bumps and various happy conversations started to instantaneously take place.

 One conversation started out just a tad edgy, however…

Berenis Reyes from the iTiger in Arizona looked at Vincent and said, “Why so sullen?”

“You unfollowed me “

“Oh get over it—everybody follows and unfollows all the time every day.”

 Dan Sardaro ( Knight Crier, Lansdale, Pennsylvania) joined in by saying, “Actually, it is becoming a sore point—there’s an app now that I’ve got that…tells you who follows and un…”

Riley interrupted and said, “Hey, you’re Berenis–thank you for the review– the ‘Santana’ reference was amazing!!—oh and don’t pay any attention to Vincent.”

“No problem, my pleasure. As for Vincent; don’t worry—I don’t,” said Berenis.

Then Riley recognized Dan Sardaro and said, “Dan, thank you so much for coming!”

“How could I not? You know you’ll always have my support. In fact, the best thing I could do to support you guys is to bring Basic Vacation with me. Rip ‘N Time’s great, but in this instance I just think that they will have a better chance against the Tarborgs. In fact, I think they’ll kick their asses!!

You know, you’re right. I’ve heard their music and they would be a better choice than Rip ‘N Time. Dan, there’re probably a thousand –or a hundred thousand—guitarists better’n me but…”said Riley
“I’ll do it—I’ll face the Tarborgs –they won’t stand a chance against me!!!,” said Sean Ashe.
“Sean Ashe, undoubtedly the greatest unknown guitarist in the universe!! Thank you for coming!!” said Riley.
“Oh, 125,000 followers on twitter is not exactly unknown,” said Sean.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant, compared to Clapton, Hendrix– you know?”
“OK, I see your point”, said Sean.
Alright Sean–no qualifiers– you are the best, period,” said Riley.
‘’Thanks!” said Sean.
“But here’s the thing. The goddess of guitar has chosen me— I’m a descendant of Ningal and Tarborg is a descendant of King Etana.  This is a 5,000 year grudge-match—and that’s the way it’s gotta be. Like it or not.
“I understand,” said Sean.
Riley noticed Jemel Fleming (he’s tall and towers over everybody) in another part of the room and she wound her way through the crowd to see him. “I just wanted to thank you personally for…”
Just then, Monique Dobson of BMC News came over and said to Riley, “I’ve listened to your CD, like fifty times—you’re amazing!!”
“You’re amazing! I’ve read your beautifully written review fifty times –thank you so much!!” said Riley.
Meanwhile, in yet another part of the cramped and packed quarters, Storm Taylor was talking to Anthony Airdo, “I really enjoyed reading your review; I guess we’re both becoming part of the lore now,” said Storm.
“Yeah, right.  I’ll just be an eight year old boy for a couple of hours and…” said Anthony.
 “Enjoy the ride –it’s a jingle jangle jamboree!!” said Storm.
 Next to them, Emily Woodbind was having an animated conversation with Jennifer Jones (JJ the DJ at 94.9 FM-The River.) “JJ, it’s great to meet you in person and I hate to sound like a broken CD, but…”said Emily.
“You want to know about airplay,” said JJ.”
“Well yeah…”answered Emily.
“It’s come down to this: my boss says that if Rip ‘N Time beats the Tarborgs in a Battle of the Bands at the Twisty Road Café; it’s a go –we’ll spin the CD”
Just then, Annika Bergstrom (KRUI Iowa City, Iowa) tried to squeeze by. Not wishing to miss an opportunity, Emily grabbed Annika’s arm and said, “Hey, you said that you’re considering Playing Her Guitar for airplay…and…”
“I am…Considering…” said Annika.
“…Well…” said Emily.
“ I overheard what JJ said and I’m going to take ‘a wait and see approach’ as well—if Rip ‘N Time wins; It’s a go—we’ll put Playing Her Guitar in regular rotation,” said Annika.
At the same time, Langston was talking to Parisa Eshrati (MD at KAMP Radio Tucson, Arizona) and Brett Botting (CD reviewer at KAMP).“Thank you Brett, for comparing me to Ira Kaplan– it’s an honor. He is one of my favorites and a huge influence,” said Langston.
“No problem, Playing Her Guitar is a rockin’ little ditty,” answered Brett.
Then Langston directed his words toward Parisa, “You know , we’re getting a following In Arizona and it would be great if you gave Playing Her Guitar a spin…”
“We already have …it’s in our stacks. It’s s been getting airplay…”
“Oh, um…like I was saying… thank you so much for giving our CD airplay…”
Elsewhere in the room, Katelyn Cimini was talking to Grace Donnelly, “I listen to Playing Her Guitar Suite on a regular basis –there’s a uniqueness to it that…”
“Are you going to write a review?” asked Grace.
“Yeah, In January, how about you?” replied Katelyn.
“It just came out in print, so all 4,000 students at Hamilton High now know about Rip ‘N Time! The online version will be up tomorrow,” said Grace.
Snippets of similar dialogues were being heard all over the room—not necessarily directly related to the Battle of the Bands, however.
Philip Cortez (Lion Tales, San Jose , California )asked Nick Antone(The Purple Quill , Cincinnati Ohio), “Hey, did you ever check out my band, Crimson?”
“Oh yeah, I’m going to write a review next semester.”
Sereena Gee was asking Akemi about bass guitar technique.
Nathan Sechrist was talking about a new band he just interviewed.
Babysue was talking to Susan Jane (producer, Bosue Recordz). It was hard to make out what they were saying; but Susan’s affirmative nods and babysue’s body language suggested that advice was being given. (If babysue was giving it, it’s gotta be good.)
Jessica Roberson of the McIntosh Trail (Peachtree City, Georgia) was speaking into a hand-held recorder, as if she was gathering information for an article.
Layne Garrett of Pell City Alabama had a completely different take on the battle: “This whole Tarborg situation is more suited for Sam and Dean Winchester –they’d know what to do; this whole trip is becoming supernatural.” She said to one of her colleagues at the Panther Paw.
At this point, fragments of various conversations were combining to create a murmur-buzz of white –no, pink noise. Suddenly, the Horn of Gabriel sounded throughout the room. All conversations ceased. The sound of the horn was like an announcement— a clarion call.
All eyes and ears focused on the origin of the sound; and it was coming from …Alex… Alex Helm of the Marcus High School Marquee!! She’d brought her trombone and a magnificent bell-like tone was emitting from her horn. It did seem at this moment that the portal had expanded and everyone here was in a place where time, space and music intersect. Then she stopped.

Alex spoke: “Let’s remember why we’re here. We need to support Rip ‘N Time in this apocalyptic Battle of the Bands—the very existence of all guitarists in the entire universe is at stake. We need to be in the audience.
No one questioned her. No one said a word. Everyone just silently filed out of the room
Alex carefully placed her trombone in her case, smiled and walked out of the room as well.

After everyone had left the room, Rip ‘N Time took a collective deep breath as if to say, well that was fun. But now, to paraphrase Alex, it was time to deal with the task at hand. So they surveyed what ‘tools’ were at their disposal. There were a number of small amps, a few effects, a mini sound system, a decent mic and an adequate (if stripped down) drumset.

Riley was always the acknowledged leader, but she seemed more in control now and everyone seemed to be paying closer attention to what she was saying. “OK, guys– looking at this schedule, here’s the way I’m thinking: for the 8, 3 and 1 minute sets we can do covers –at least we should be able to do a fake job anyway. Then when we go head to head with the Tarborgs, we just go for it with the Playing Her Guitar Suite. We’ve got about a couple of hours, so let’s go,” said Riley.
“Um, I . . . hate to be Sally Speedbump . . . ‘cause you really seem like you’re on a roll– but you are aware that Playing Her Guitar Suite has not been written yet, right?” Akemi said.
“I am aware of that. Thank you Akemi but you are only half right; Playing Her Guitar Suite has been written –just not in its current version,” said Riley. “But you know what? We’re going to win this Battle –I know we are. If I can just conjure up some of the things these great legends bestowed upon us, we’ll make it .And I’m going to start by playing that exercise that Maestro Albeniz gave me– only I’m going to do it with a pick on my Explorer.” Riley started doing the exercise and then did a little hammer-on with the left hand on the 3rd string –6th to 8th fret.

Riley's Original Riff--Starting on 3rd String-6th to 8th Fret

Riley’s Original Riff–Starting on 3rd String-6th to 8th Fret

“Hey! That sounds pretty cool,” said Akemi.
Riley kept on playing and, keeping the right hand picking the same, she moved her left hand to different parts of the fretboard. She stopped for a moment and then asked Langston, “Remember those three chords Camille used to get us to time travel?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Langston said.
“Good. Play those chords while I’m playing my riff and then just kind of move them around the fretboard, keeping the first and second strings open—let them ring,” Riley said.
Riley went back to playing the riff and Langston played the chords with it.
“I think we might have an intro there, but let’s go back to that later.” Riley went back to playing the original riff and just then Langston started singing something about a girl playing her guitar. Before anyone realized it, Langston had come up with several verses, a pre-chorus and a pretty strong—no, great–chorus.
“I told you . . . I told you! I told you Langston was good at coming up with lyrics!” said Vincent.
“For sure, but I’m not too keen on that one pre-chorus, ‘People say she’s not so smart, but man she plays with so much heart,’” said Riley. “I like the . . . ‘Heart’ part but the ‘She’s not so smart,’— hey ya know– can a girl get some respect?” said Riley.
“Riley, I’m not crazy about that rhyme either –it was supposed to be ‘some people say . . . ’ but I just couldn’t fit it in right. ‘Sorry. Uh, poetic license?” said Langston.
“That’s fine. I’m already over it.” said Riley. “Let’s go through it from the top.”
Riley started playing an intro based on the exercise riff used for the verses, pre-chorus and chorus. Then, after a few measures, Akemi came in with a very tasty bass riff. Vincent held back until the very end of the intro, doing some dramatic tom rolls and cymbal splashes. He cut out perfectly, as Langston entered with the vocal. They added a bridge. Akemi arranged the harmonies and . . . not too bad. Not bad at all!



“Ok good, we’re doing good, but before we get too full of ourselves and nominate Rip ’N Time for a best new artist Grammy, let’s get another tune and let’s call it ‘Twisting Road’,” said Riley.
“Now I’m thinking, ‘Sonny’ . . . blues—just bare my soul—close my eyes and let my fingers play my heart. Um . . . let’s take the ‘Playing Her Guitar’ progression, and Langston can you play rhythm? –kind of a steady eighth note strum –through a chorus effect. Can you do that for me, Langston?” asked Riley.
“Yeah, yeah for sure,” said Langston.

“Great, then after the bridge I’m going to do a double stop, parallel thirds,’50s rock thing followed by kind of an anthemic melodic metal solo, and I was wondering; can you do that chunky metal, palm mute thing you do, while I’m soloing?” said Riley.
“Of course,” said Langston.
“Great. After that we’ll do a variation on the ‘Playing Her Guitar’ intro; then back into the blues while you go back to the eighth note strumming,” said Riley.
“Alright!” said Langston.
“Akemi, Vincent—keep it simple – solid. You know what I’m talkin’ about,” Riley said.
“Oh yeah,” Akemi and Vincent said.
“For the finale, let’s get super dreamy—real sweet,” Riley said.
“Hey, I know—how ‘bout callin’ it, ‘Suite Dream?’,” said Akemi.
“Nice, Akemi. That title works perfectly for what we’re going to play. I want you and Langston to play the Playing Her Guitar riff along with me. I want you both to play the riff on different parts of the fretboard, so we’ll have this three part harmony going on. Also, use lots of reverb and chorus–that should give us a nice, thick, lush sound.
“Vincent, very light drumming on Suite Dream. ‘Sorry. — I have my reasons –trust me on this one.
“Let’s run through the Playing Her Guitar Suite from the top—all three songs, in succession–one right after another, as many times as we can before the show,” said Riley. Everyone nodded in agreement and they did just what Riley said.

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